Next month, for the first time since 2001, Sept. 11 falls on a Tuesday, the traditional release day for albums. Instead of observing the event by abstaining from new offerings, several multiplatinum artists, including country star Kenny Chesney and rappers 50 Cent and Kanye West, have claimed it as their own. Not surprisingly, the decision is all business. ”Obviously, everyone understands the tragedy and the implications of that,” explains Joe Galante, chairman of Sony/BMG Nashville, which owns Chesney’s label, BNA Records. ”But it doesn’t seem to resonate the same way it did in the early years as a reason not to do something.” (Whether buyers feel otherwise remains to be seen.) Adds a high-ranking major-label exec: ”You’re coming into the fourth quarter — which is usually the most profitable one — and also the Christmas season. There’s no question that Sept. 11 has a stigma to it, which is why the other dates in September got filled up so quickly.” (Other big releases that month include ones by James Blunt, Foo Fighters, and Melissa Etheridge.) Continues the exec, ”If you don’t have your record ready to roll into Thanksgiving, it’s finished.” Adding to the Sept. 11 crunch are the MTV Video Music Awards, which were pushed from late August to Sept. 9 this year. A performance on the show can boost an artist’s profile and goose sales.
Some indie artists, however, who aren’t as reliant on big first-week numbers, have a different take on the anniversary. ”Because [the attacks] were such a hateful thing, I can’t think of anything more life-affirming than releasing music on that day,” says singer-songwriter Johnathan Rice, whose sophomore effort, Further North, hits stores on Sept. 11. ”We have the freedom to sing about whatever we want. It’s a victory.”